Wiedmer: Is Young era at an end in Titans Land?

Wiedmer: Is Young era at an end in Titans Land?

January 26th, 2009 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports

Only the zaniest of Tennessee Titans fans may see much good coming out of Sunday's Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.

Those proud, few, stubborn diehards can cling to their 31-14 regular-season win over the Steelers, pull like crazy for the Steel Curtain to win its sixth Super Bowl, then prop themselves up through the off-season with the knowledge that they beat the probable champs by 17 points.

It isn't much, but it's certainly preferable to reliving the 962 could-of-would-of-should-of moments from the Titans' 13-10 playoff loss to the Ravens two weeks ago.

But if ESPN's weekend news flash that Titans coach Jeff Fisher has already promised Kerry Collins the starting quarterback job for next season proves to be true, there is much reason for every Titans fan to believe next year could prove even better than this one.

No, the ESPN story didn't have a named source. And almost every sports fan in the Music City is probably wondering if such a thing is possible as long as former starting quarterback Vince Young remains on the roster.

After all, it was Tennessee owner Bud Adams who supposedly forced the team's brass to choose Young in the 2006 draft over Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinart and Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler.

It was viewed as a gamble then, given Young's questionable passing skills. After the quarterback briefly refused to go back into the season-opening win over Jacksonville before a late injury in that game sidelined him for a month, the emergence of the veteran Collins further fueled the argument that making Young invisible was the best way to make the Titans invincible.

This is not to say that any Titans player or coach has publicly preferred Collins over Young the past four months. Most have actually said the opposite, continuing to label him, "the future of this franchise."

But Young has acted like anything but the Titans' long-term poster boy. He has almost always been the first to leave the locker room on game days, He hasn't appeared to pal around with teammates as he used to following practice. And fair or not, the Titans' 23-0 loss at Indy with Young often under center on the last Sunday of the regular season did nothing to boost confidence in the third-year player.

Beyond that, the 12 TDs Collins threw while surrendering just seven interceptions landed him in the Pro Bowl after Brett Favre was forced to pull out due to injury. Aside from Collins' Super Bowl run with the New York Giants in 2000, this was arguably his best season as a pro. Given a starter's reps from the preseason forward next fall there is no reason to believe he can't match, if not surpass those numbers in 2009.

But Collins apparently isn't even the only QB not named Young that the Titans would like to hold onto next season. Third teamer Chris Simms - the former Tampa Bay starter - reportedly looked great in practice after recovering from a spleen injury and is high on the team's priority list.

All of this remains conjecture at the moment. And the Collins-Young saga is far from the Titans' only concern. They must make a decision on whether or not to hand millions to defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who can begin negotiating with anyone on Feb. 27. They have already lost defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to the Detroit Lions. Losing Haynesworth could mean losing the impenetrable defense that did the most to secure those 13 wins. Beyond that, defensive back and return specialist Chris Carr is a free agent who says he wants to remain in Nashville. Signing him is crucial.

And though the Titans might like nothing better than to get rid of Young, who - other than the Cowboys or Raiders - would want to take a chance on him? And he counts $4.6 million against the salary cap next season, though the Titans reportedly have $35 million in cap room at the moment.

Yet regardless of what transpires between now and next season, if the Titans really have already handed the keys to Collins for opening day, the prospects for reaching next year's Super Bowl look almost as bright as they did last month when they pounded the probable world champions.

E-mail Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com